HONG KONG -- Hong Kong saw its biggest pro-democracy protest in months on Sunday, signaling more unrest to come in 2020 as the movement that began in June to fight China's increasing grip on the city shows its staying power.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded the city's major downtown boulevards, many waving U.S. flags, singing "Glory to Hong Kong" and chanting "Five demands, not one less." The protests were largely peaceful throughout the afternoon, though at night tensions emerged between riot police and some radical demonstrators. Some protesters also called for disrupting the commute on Monday morning.
The rally was the first organized by the Civil Human Rights Front to get police approval since August, prompting many Hong Kongers who normally wouldn't risk joining an illegal assembly to hit the streets. The show of force follows a landslide victory for pro-democracy forces in local elections last month.
"Yet another breathtaking display of Hong Kongers' political might," said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker who joined the march on Sunday. "By now it's obvious the Hong Kong fight will go on, we will soldier on," she said. "This may last for the generations to come."
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's leader backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has refused to give in to demands including an independent inquiry into police violence and meaningful elections for the city's top political positions. The demonstrations have maintained popular support even as the economy has slid into a recession.
"Should Carrie Lam or the Beijing regime continue to ignore the outcry, Hong Kongers will continue to resist the government by peaceful and not-so-peaceful means," said Fernando Cheung, another opposition lawmaker.
The protesters have sought to pressure the government with a combination of peaceful mass marches, like the one on Sunday afternoon; and more violent actions like shutting down transport networks, vandalizing mainland-linked businesses and seizing universities. Police have made more than 6,000 arrests, while coming under fire for abuses in seeking to contain the demonstrations.
Earlier on Sunday, police said they arrested 11 people while seizing a semi-automatic pistol, bullet-proof jackets, retractable batons and pepper spray in the raid. They suspected an "extreme" group of people would try to attack police or "create chaos" during the rally.
"We're very nervous," Li Kwai Wah, senior superintendent at the Organized Crime Triad Bureau, told reporters. "I am urging the protesters today to pay extra attention to their surroundings and leave the scene and report to the police if there are signs of danger."